by Dr. Sosunmolu Shoyinka, Chief Medical Officer, City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS)
These are stressful and uncertain times. The evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic is very sudden and can be confusing. This may provoke anxiety for many people.
Those with pre-existing anxiety and other mental health conditions may be particularly at risk. Individuals and teams whose work bring them in contact with infected persons may experience stress and anxiety. Other groups at risk for increased stress include the elderly, those caring for sick or vulnerable persons, and those experiencing significant changes to work, travel, or family life.
Regardless of status or work function, we can anticipate that all of us will at some point experience some increased stress.
At times like this, it is important to take steps to promote mental wellness and resilience. DBHIDS aligns with SAMHSA, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association to make the following recommendations:
- Connect with people: Reaching out to people you trust is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness, and boredom during social distancing, quarantine, and isolation. Make phone calls frequently, FaceTime, and text to stay connected.
- Relax: Calm your body often by doing things that work for you—take deep breaths, stretch, meditate, pray, or engage in home-based exercise including yoga. Pace yourself between stressful activities and do something fun after a hard task.
- Get outside in nature–if you are able: Parks are a safer option than indoor meeting spaces when looking for recreation. So while all official Philadelphia Parks & Recreation programming is suspended as of March 16, you can still take advantage of outdoor spaces—such as FDR Park, Fairmount Park, and the Wissahickon Valley Park. Just remember to practice social distancing and wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
- Do not ignore your health; talk to your doctor: Ask your provider if it’s possible to schedule remote appointments via Skype or FaceTime for mental health, substance use, or physical health needs.
- Stay informed using credible sources: This can keep us all grounded and centered with accurate and timely information. For Philadelphians, we recommend visiting the City of Philadelphia’s COVID-19 webpage. You can also text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive updates to your phone. The City has also set up a 24-hour helpline (1-800-722-7112) if you need to speak with a healthcare professional.
- Consider limiting media exposure: While it is important to stay informed, constant monitoring of news and social media can trigger anxiety and stress, so it is equally as important to create a healthy balance to minimize overexposure.
In addition to these tips, we encourage you to visit HealthyMindsPhilly.org. This is a free website powered by DBHIDS that provides behavioral health resources and free, quick and anonymous screening to check on your emotional well-being.
We also encourage people to take care of one another and check in with those around us who might be facing challenges during this uncertain time, so together we can stay well.